Grafter Gardner pledges to keep his head down for Sunderland

CRAIG Gardner says he is aware of all the speculation surrounding his future at Sunderland, but says he plans just to get his head down until it is resolved.

The former Birmingham City midfielder has now entered the last year of his contract at the club and has been the subject of transfer talk throughout the summer.

Like skipper Lee Cattermole, Phil Bardsley and David Vaughan, Gardner understands that he could be allowed to go if another club comes in with an acceptable offer before the transfer deadline at 11pm on September 2.

But for the moment he remains part of Sunderland’s plans, with head coach Paolo Di Canio using him in all three pre-season games.

And with Sunderland short of defensive options in the full-back positions, there is every chance that the 26-year-old will be asked to start at right-back again in this campaign – although he is suspended for next Saturday’s opener against Fulham.

Gardner told the Echo: “It’s a bit of a strange time really for me, but there’s not much I can do about it.

“All I can do is concentrate on my football and hope everything else takes care of itself,.

“I’m in the last year of my contract and obviously I’ve got to think of the future, but I just have to wait and see.

“I want to play as many games as possible, like any professional footballer, and I’ve got to consider my future.

“But there’s a lot of uncertainty about and the best thing to do is just to get on with the business of preparing for the new season.”

Gardner was a £5million buy from the relegated Brummies in the summer of 2011.

The ex-Aston Villa youth product had scored double figures for Birmingham in a doomed Premier League season and then Black Cats’ boss Steve Bruce hoped he would do the same for Sunderland.

In the event, Bruce rarely used Gardner in his preferred central midfield role before his sacking and subsequent bosses Martin O’Neill and Paolo Di Canio have also persisted with the habit of deploying him in a right-back role.

Gardner, who has enjoyed his time at Sunderland and developed an affinity with fans, said: “I don’t really care where I play just so long as I’m in the team and I’ve worked hard at doing the best job I can at right-back.

“I just have to wait to see what happens.

“I’ve been happy at Sunderland. When things like this happen, you’ve just got to block the outside stuff out and get on with it.

“The good thing is that I’m feeling fit and strong after a good pre-season and I’m just looking forward to the new season starting.”